Please turn up your speakers and watch this introductory presentation:

In this section you will find:


        - our reason for being

        - who we are and what we do

        - questions and answers

our reason for being

The message that Jesus brought was never a condemning one, or a set of beliefs to be adhered to under fear of punishment. It was, rather, a message of individual freedom, of each of us being a manifestation of Divinity itself, of love actually being the center that holds all things together, and of an invitation to recognize Divinity within all creation and within other people as the source of an ever-more-happy life. 


The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit is a group of world-wide Catholic dioceses (organizations) which try to pay attention to this beauty and to understand what it means, in order to bring more meaning and joy into our own lives at every moment. We try not to be pious, stiff, judgmental or demanding. We support each other when we are down, and encourage each other when things are going well. 


The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit (“Catholic” here is used in its earliest meaning: “universal”) welcome everyone, no matter their denomination or religion, if this core spiritual perspective and personal trajectory resonate with you. Religious institutions are like “clubs” … various clubs use various techniques to bring about certain end results. The end result of the spirituality of them all – certainly of Jesus! – was that each person become the loving embodiment of God, who is the all-pervasive Giver of life and existence to us all. 




          . . . WHAT YOU JUST READ WAS JUST THE BASICS;

 IF YOU WANT MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTINUE READING:




There is no reason people cannot belong to various insightful organizations at the same time (even if those organizations are churches), as long as those people are getting something from the groups to which they belong and generally believe the perspective of the groups to which they belong.


We often work independently, and sometimes meet as small groups with no intentions of becoming giant mega-churches; that is not the CDOS chrism. We do not want to become impersonal or “institutional.” We are primarily many forms of spirituality and spiritual structures besides Sunday morning services.


We are looking for ways to bring the attention of the 80% of the US “church”-avoiding population and those who get little from institutional church (higher percentages in other countries) to the spirituality-within that they seek. We hope to present the Jesus-Message in more relevant ways, and draw attention to its life-giving beauty in contemporary circumstances.


We are, also, very “secular.” That is because we know that God is the beginning, the source, the substance and the sustaining force of the entire physical universe and all the life within it. Nothing is more “secular” than God. This is God’s gift to us, so that we might, in this physical life, come to an ever-greater realization of the life of God living within us. We, therefore, love this earth and all the people in it.


The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit are fully-Catholic models of Christianity as it was practiced by the early Christians. They had no dogmas, no creeds, and no doctrines – but rather they were followers of “The Way” in wanting to live their lives like Jesus invited them to. That is what we want.


We are not an “independent” Catholic Church, because that is a contradiction. Because there is only ONE baptism (i.e., if you are baptized in one Christian denomination and join another, you are not re-baptized), only ONE Body of Christ, there is, therefore, only ONE Church. All Christians are members of it. 


Originally, Catholics who loved the spirituality but thought the rules were an embarrassment began groups which were a home for those who had been rejected by the Roman Catholic Church because of some man-made rules that have nothing to do with the Christ Message (e.g., divorced, gay, living together, can’t buy the whole parcel of dogmas and doctrines, birth control, etc.).  At the time, they did away with a host of other rules that had emerged over the centuries, also not from Christ and now clearly harmful to individuals (e.g., married priests, women priests, and LGBT priests, are realistically needed and appropriate). What emerged from that was the recognition that, once those matters, which really are of secondary importance to the beauty of the Gospel message, were disposed of, there came the clearly recognized freedom within this great blessing we have in Jesus and the example of his life. 


It became more and more obvious that love without judgment and a Body of Faith without dogmas or doctrines (i.e., you do not have to believe it the same way everybody else does or has) are just what the world needs today, as it was in Jesus’ time.


We are small in organization, but large in the “audience” that wants to hear what we say … because it resonates in their heads and in their hearts. We are formulating what it means to scrub away the encrustations of Christianity that stand in the way of real Christian and “catholic” spirituality.


The innate resonance that we are one with the indwelling God is the message most people already believe, even though they may never have articulated it. People who do not go to church, people who do not feel themselves even Christian, people who have been bored or insulted away from the Catholic Church or any church — all these people feel at home with this liberating message of love that is the basis of the Gospel and the lifeblood of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit.


All groups need leaders, people from within who naturally create pastoral structures, even if loose and not overly-burdened with regulations. The designation of these leaders within the church has historically been a process called ordination. In the Catholic tradition, apostolic succession has been seen as continuity from the time of Jesus, but we are always cognizant that the Spirit flows where it will, and is not restricted by humanly-imposed limitations.  For those who follow lines of apostolic succession, the lines of Bishop Burch, and those whom he ordained, are documented from the Petrine (Roman), Russian Orthodox, Orthodox Church of Antioch, and Athanasius (Malabar) churches of Catholicism. Within the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit, ordination to the priesthood is felt as a reasonable conclusion to the movement of God’s Spirit within God’s people, and it is a pastoral process.


Leaders are a necessary part of any organization, and accepting ordination is the way they are designated within the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit. Being a priest without the institutional power of the Roman church can be difficult, because there is no financial back-up. But it is exceedingly rewarding. Because our priests are free to give the Christian message without the “company line” that so often does not work any longer. The rewards of helping people to find their own spirituality are immense. The diocese can help by giving their priests and deacons formats on how to start wedding and funeral ministries that do much good and help bring in a little income as well. Many priests have to have a regular job as well as their priestly ministry, but most prefer that anyway. 


We are very cognizant of how important knowledge is to a priest. Only by knowing history, theology, scriptures, counseling and mystical life in God will a person feel the sufficient self-confidence to put forth his or her ministry, and only with it will that ministry be received effectively. For all priest and deacon applicants, we want to know what, if any, spirituality studies they many have had, and if they are willing to study at home under our teachers and mentors in order to fill any pastoral gaps. 


While there are indeed many people who think like we do, they are hard to round up. Most fear separation from that which they have known all their life, even though it does not satisfy them. Moreover, our diocese is not large. We have the same Body of Faith (the way people through the ages understood the message of Christ) as all Catholics/Christians. While some may have their own beliefs, doctrines, creeds, etc., the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit will not allow any of our members to IMPOSE dogmas, creeds or doctrines on others (e.g., parishioners, those receiving sacraments, those being counseled, etc.). 


People are free to believe what they want to believe … because they do anyway! God made us this way, with consciences. They become a part of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit if what we stand for motivates them. What moved people to understanding centuries ago (even decades ago) is no longer the viewpoint that brings insight today. The challenge is to constantly be interpreting “Who is Christ for me today?” and “How am I to recognize God in myself and others today?” 


We are part of the Catholic tradition for many reasons, some tangible and some not so. Catholicism has taught (though often forgotten to practice) that we are “sanctified”, temples of the Holy Spirit, made in the image and likeness of God. We start off loved, in other words, and not as sinners (gets rid of the bent man-made theology of “original sin”). We love the mysticism and spirituality of so many people in the Catholic tradition throughout the ages … mostly the average people, not so much the hierarchy that was so often scandalous. 


We like a liturgy well done, something that has some structure to it, yet remains human, warm, inspirational. We honor the love for the poor and the sense of social justice that was Jesus’ message and the backbone of the Catholic Church even through its worst moments. We find some common thread permeating apostolic succession and the continuity from the early church, even while recognizing that most of this did not come from Christ (that is alright), but was structural accommodations throughout history (as it should have been, and as it gives us a lesson today to do likewise). 


Yet, we are NOT “Roman.” We simply do not follow any “company line.” In the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit there are no tangential things you must believe, or things you must do in order to avoid hell (is there any place “hell” other than what we temporarily create?). You come to our diocese and you stay here only because you basically agree with our perspective on Christian spirituality. 


Rarely does anyone believe every detail of Christianity the same as another. Ours are dioceses where we look to see what Jesus said about our relationship with God, and to follow Jesus as an example. We prefer to do what Jesus did: to offer ideals and non-judgmental love. He himself was a pretty smart fellow; if he had wanted to write a rule book, he would have written a rule book. Obviously, he did not.


“Love without judgment” is a constant challenge for us all. Because God lives in every person, in every creature, and in all of creation, then none of us have a right to put down whatever else God obviously loves and sustains. Even in the worst of us, God never steps out and says “I’ll be back when you finish that!” 

We break beyond our limitations when we gain insights from others who do not think like us, have different backgrounds and experiences, and thus different perspectives. The world would be a mighty boring place if so many people’s wishes were granted that everyone be just like them.


We have great freedom of thought, no litmus tests of orthodoxy (Jesus would not pass the Vatican’s litmus tests today), and great acceptance of new attempts to think out the wonderful Christian message. We try, try, and keep trying, to understand Christ’s living out of our relationship with God in the world in which we live. 


We experiment with insights. We put it in new, “lowest-common-denominator” phrasing. We stretch theology. We use new scientific discoveries about the God who sustains all the universe. And it is gradually working! People who have not articulated the spirituality they have, perk up and announce they “got it”! 


For those who might be interested in our priesthood or diaconate, we honor all those who have a job or other life obligations while being a priest or deacon. For many of us, it is a necessity. For many others it is part of a beautiful, integrated life, one that keeps them in tune with human reality. It should not be forgotten that we have no large institutional backing like the Roman Catholic Church. What we begin we must recognize that it will pay for itself (and make us a living) or it will fail. Our initiatives may be intellectually more bold, but our physical undertakings are incremental by necessity! This is not easy. It requires a trust in God that is practical and every-day. For those who are easily discouraged, it would be doubly difficult.

 

In our church we have straight and gay priests, married and unmarried men and women priests. Within our limited structure, all are free to live the Christian gospels and to set their local ministries up, with minimal to no outside (i.e., hierarchical) interference. We also have priests who are also ministers in good standing in other denominations or religions; they only have to also have a generally similar spiritual perspective as that expressed by the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit and presented on these pages.


Apostolic succession is important to us, and to all Catholics, though it appears to be of human origin and not from Jesus, and, so, not a necessity to God’s graces. It is the continuity, the life-stream, the connection throughout the ages with the apostles. The bishops of this diocese support and encourage our Christian/Catholic people, and do not restrict them.


To Christ, there were no barriers. Everyone was welcome. By this then shall we be known also: that we love one another. 




who we are, and what we do



The Theological Foundation for Reform,
Renewal and a new way of being “Catholic”


What Christianity consists of through each age is based on 1) the Gospels and what that society’s current understanding of them may be, and 2) the evolution of the institutional church as it attempts to interpret and then carry along the message of Jesus, incorporating the various interpretations of the preceding ages. The longer Christianity goes on, the more necessary it is to go back, to make certain that we have our priorities in order and that interpretations arising in various cultures and ages have not infiltrated and camouflaged the original message and life of Jesus.


The structure of the church has historically evolved over time. There has never been ONE WAY – rather it was “what works” for the particular times. In St. Paul’s era, there was very little structure because Paul and others thought Jesus would return some time soon. So why organize?


After Paul’s death, those certain epistles which were not written by him – but rather in his name and thereby latching on to his authority (the letters to Timothy, Titus, Colossians, Ephesians and Hebrews were probably not written by Paul himself) – were concerned with structure.  The Church of the post-Paul time wanted a structure which would preserve what they had, what had been handed down. They had many presbyters and bishops – set up in a way that no one was a guru or a boss. The admonition of these epistles was for family men who knew how to take care of their own families, because they would protect the church in the same way. But eventually, even those presbyters found that they could not always get along, and so in the second century a single bishop emerged to run the whole local show. 


The description of “the Church” does not often occur in the New Testament, but “the churches” does. For the followers close to Jesus’ day and immediately after the times of the Apostles, all communities were local, and all had their unique demands and requirements. Only in the Letter to the Colossians and the Letter to the Ephesians does the expression “the Church” occur often. Ephesians and Colossians are the two most important documents that set, or explain the set-up, of the emerging structure of the Church. The Church organized itself to protect itself against “new ideas” and “false teachers.” They wanted to preserve only what Jesus said. Of course, it worked in large measure. But it also brought the seed of not being able to appreciate new insights of the Holy Spirit and of going stagnant.


The Church of the eighth decade (according to the faux-Paul epistles) had criteria for presbyters and bishops that fit the times. Even later requirements for college education for priests – obviously not a requirement for the apostles – fit the need of running a parish. And that need still holds, for running a parish. However, for priests not running a parish or for those engaged in any number of other dimensions of ministry, we must call to mind the practicality set in motion by the Early Church: what works.


Biblical Guidance


We don’t have any of the original copies of the New Testament. What we have are copies – made later by many who copied them by hand. And, in that process, transmitted many mistakes and many contradictions. 


The New Testament consists of 27 books, with the key books being the four Gospels. The earliest Gospel was written by Mark about 35 to 40 years after Jesus’ death, and the latest of the four Gospels was John, written somewhere around 60 to 70 years after Jesus’ death. The earliest fragment of a Gospel is John 18 (“P52”), dating to early Second Century, possibly 120 C.E. to 140 C.E. The earliest complete copy of John is from around the year 200 C.E., so that between the writing of the Gospels and the earliest existent full copy of even one of the Gospels we have today, there was a period of approximately 100 years or more.


Until the invention of the printing press in the late 15th Century, all copies of the Gospels and the New Testament were copied by hand. Only when the printing press came into existence do we find uniform copies. Prior to the invention of the printing press, we have nearly 10,000 copies of the Gospels in Latin, these being, of course, translations and not copies of the original. It is the Greek versions which are most important, and of these approximately 5,700 copies in Greek survive today – some few of them full Gospels, but most being fragments of various lengths.


It was not until the year 1707 that biblical scholar John Mill of Oxford considered that there might be mistakes in the copies. He reviewed only 100 manuscripts, but catalogued 30,000 places where there were variations. Among the approximately 5,700 various sized manuscripts of the Greek Gospels between the second and the fifteenth centuries which we know of today, there are variously catalogued 100,000 to 400,000 “mistakes” we can see. Most of these are unimportant, a misspelling, a skipping of a word, or something like that. But some are indeed substantive, for example:


  • In the Gospel of Mark, an early version reads “in the prophecy of Isaiah.” But this prophecy did not come from Isaiah, but rather from Malachi. So a later scribe put: “as it says in the prophets …”
  • “Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone … one by one they all left …” This was not in the original version of the New Testament, because none of the early copies of John have this story and none of the commentaries of the day mention it. There is no mention of this passage until the 10th Century.
  • The earliest copies of Mark’s Gospel end with “but the women fled from the tomb and they didn’t say anything to anyone, for they were afraid.” Later, scribes added the next 12 verses, including the oft-quoted “Go make disciples of all nations.”
  • In the Gospel of Mark, a leper asks to be healed, and Jesus “feeling compassion” healed him. However, it was much more likely that the original text said that Jesus “got angry.” In Mark, Jesus often got angry.
  • In the original Gospel of Luke, when Jesus was nailed to the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” The earliest versions give this as a prayer of Jesus for forgiveness of all the Jewish people. In later times, when there was hatred for Jews, this entire prayer was simply omitted in copies.

All this is to say, in this context of determining the elastic boundaries of Christian renewal, is that the Gospels must be interpreted with a broad brush, and not a fine brush. It sends us back, again, to the expansive observation that the purpose of the Church was as a vehicle for transmitting Jesus’ new way of living, new way of looking at things, new way to perceive the presence of God.


What we are discovering, at the same time that we discover the weaknesses in what we have for centuries presumed the Bible to be, is the magnificent diversity of its original meanings. The Jesus Seminars and the historical questioning have unlocked untold marvels of insight and beauty of Jesus’ message. On top of this reality came the realization – long known but never sufficiently appreciated – that Jesus and his contemporaries spoke in the Aramaic language, and not the Greek that the four canonical Gospels were written in. Aramaic is a vastly different language than Greek. Greek translates easily and with minor contextual differences to Romance languages. Aramaic is a very nuanced language, filled with poetry and hidden meanings. Sentences and concepts can have literally hundreds of meanings in the Aramaic spoken language of Jesus, not just the few of the Greek. Thus, there is a newfound beauty and richness which brings to life new insights of Jesus’ teachings. It also leaves more to our individual interpretation, and less to rigid single interpretations – just as did Jesus’ method of teaching. 


Once again, we have to conclude that it is essential to transmit the un-cluttered, un-adorned, life-giving message in tools, in techniques, in language, in actions, in situations that are meaningful and robust to their intended audiences.


The Particular Charism of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit


We did not start out with the vision we now have, but somehow the Holy Spirit moved us in this direction. We have no reason to believe the movement has stopped, or that we will ever be frozen in this or any one spot.


Most of the members of the dioceses come from a Roman Catholic background, and have brought with them at least a little of the Roman Catholic mindset. This served as a bit of a stumbling block or anchor, as reality “on the ground” forced us to recognize other methods and perspectives. The Protestant backgrounds of some of our members brought their own mindsets and anchors. Despite their limitations, the mixture of our various Christian denominations and cultures has enriched and made the new Catholic/Christian activities and theologies which have emerged more real and more beautiful.


We initially tried, but we were not very successful at recreating the Roman Catholic model of parish life as the evidence of lived Christianity. It was pretty much all we knew, and we tried to pull it off, but with no luck. At that early time, the only priests who would have been attracted to us would have been those working on this same model. Only after the model changed did we have a different face and a different attraction. It is not easy to say why the model of parish life failed in this diocese – and is failing in many other new attempts besides ours. Perhaps it is because potential “parishioners” were themselves used to something larger, mightier, associated with sturdy buildings as a sign of credibility. Perhaps potential parishioners did not feel comfortable in a small community of faith setting – ill at ease with the intimacy and the inability to remain anonymous. Perhaps it meant too much having to be on one’s toes and exposure of one’s inner self. Perhaps, once having left the routine of Sunday Mass, no lightning struck and they didn’t feel bad at all … so why go back? Perhaps some never got much out of the Sunday church service anyway, but only went to buttress their heavenly odds. 


Concomitantly, we noticed that there was much demand for the blessings of the sacrament of marriage, for baptism and for funerals, and for other various ways in which we as individuals were ministering. Such demand generally came from people who did not attend church regularly, but who also happened to be wonderful people … seeking to be happy, open to meaningful explanations of spiritual matters, already involved in serious thought on the subject. And so, we answered those calls – allowing for the room made by the Holy Spirit. Why, we thought, try to force round pegs into square holes that so evidently reject those attempts. Why not give them what they are asking for?


How our Dioceses speak to the world today


The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit comprise individuals and communities of Christian faith and action, who follow the life and teachings of Jesus. Ministries exist to serve the particular changing needs of others.


We band together in loving friendship and in purposeful ministry in order to be an effective vehicle/conduit that reflects the free and life-giving revelations of Jesus to others. We strive to live the Gospel Ideals in order to do this, and to model our Dioceses on the image of the Apostolic Church, as presented in the Acts of the Apostles. 


We also use as our guides, the Epistles, the Documents of Vatican II, the Documents of the Latin American Bishops promulgated in Medellin, Colombia, in 1968, and the goals and ideals enunciated so late in the history of the Church by that segment of the Church so institutionally overlooked and so rich in spiritual treasure: WOMEN – as so wonderfully enunciated by the Women’s Ordination Conference. 


Our primary Vision is to be a dedicated group, within the larger One Church, made up of distinct vocational or avocational ministries and small communities of faith, each one with its Deacon for service and/or its Priest for the Eucharist and the other Sacraments (sacred moments), and its Bishop as a mentor/servant to them all. 


We believe that a community without the Eucharistic is missing Jesus’ fundamentally Buddhist way to pierce the veil to this beauty of the underlying Spirit. We choose “Eucharist” in its early-church relevancy, and not necessarily in its last millennium, highly-ritualized disguise. The community is a family and families always eat when there is a family celebration, and those meals are usually informal and pulsating with realism. 


That does not mean that the same format for “Mass” is the only or the best format for contemporary people to participate in Jesus’ Eucharist. We ask for and we grant open Communion with all the other branches of the Catholic Church, because we believe that barriers are not part of Jesus’ command to “Love one another.” We are also in communion with all people and with Orthodox and Protestant branches of Christianity. We also recognize the message of Jesus within other religious paths: Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, etc. - all with different slants from their cultures and experiences which we have not had, and which can enrich us. We welcome all at our Eucharist. We welcome new forms of Eucharist, fitting for the times and the people who live in these times. We are “in communion,” in fact, with all people and all God’s universal expression.


Following the example of Jesus, the Christ, we believe that our two main missions are: to Preach the Good News, and to Heal the sick and the broken, in the name and manner of Jesus. We try to realize that when we give, we become. In whatever place we may be, our role there is to bring peace and wholeness to that place, healing brokenness in whatever form it takes. All of us are somewhat “broken” and so we have a challenging future of service, each to the other. Ministry for us, then, is always a reciprocal endeavor. 


We do this first through “Being” (recognizing our Christ-Consciousness) and next through Doing (action, like Jesus). As the old African proverb says: “When you pray, use your feet” (or whatever else is at hand). We find it integral to our being Christians to not only have empathetic connections with individuals, but also to be committed to social justice to the marrow of our bones: we abhor social structures which demean whole classes of people, and we are passionate about changing them.


It sobers us to observe that the only time Jesus ever got angry was when he went to church. And the only people he ever got angry at were church “leaders.” We bear that in mind as we continually evaluate what kind of a diocese we wish to be and what we wish to grow toward. God help us to be as humble and unaffected as was Jesus.


Because of all this, we have a Christian Moral Dedication which we try to follow. Our Liturgies may follow a Rite similar to that of the Roman Branch of the Catholic Church, or they may be very different with alterations inspired by the Holy Spirit in each Community and in each Celebration. We believe that each Community together with its Priest may plan each Eucharist as the Holy Spirit moves them, while holding – as we do – that Eucharist is both the real presence and the reminder of the God who embodies, gives existence and life, to all that is … from the physical/spiritual Jesus, to the physical/spiritual each one of us, to every physical form and atom. 

We trust the Spirit enough to provide us with new possibilities and new insights as we need them, that this Spirit is an evolutionary force of God’s life-giving presence in the world. We are here to draw attention to God’s deep presence, available to all from within, merely by the asking and the seeking. We have our model in doing this in Jesus, who did it so perfectly. 


We do not see evangelization as a process to restore and add members to a church or to build the infrastructure of organized religion. Rather, we see facets of the external “church” as tools to help individuals enlighten themselves through discovery and expression of the God-Within preached by Jesus. 

Our goal, as was Jesus’ goal, is to bring the Good News, to those who are ready to hear it, of the Beyond that lies Within, just beneath the surface – the Reign of God / the Presence of God which infuses all that is with existence, life and benevolent meaning.


In the Acts of the Apostles, we see that the Spirit is always racing ahead … and producing unexpected and unpredictable events and reactions. When “Church” freezes the Holy Spirit into scripted actions or defined structural responses, it, in effect, has tried to box in the Spirit. The result is stagnation. 


To think that we could possibly categorize and structuralize all the movements of God’s Spirit is to try and catch the wind. It shows a lack of trust in God; it closes its eyes to the unpredictable facts of living all around us; and it squelches our freedom, joy and hope. The Church’s task is to open up individuals to all these. 


We suspect that the future will not hold a singular spiritual perspective or organizational structure, but many thousands of them. We honor the myriad differences of the expression of God in all God’s people and in all of God’s universe, known and yet-unknown. We bless the present and future multiplication of creative expressions of faith, and we recognize cultural pluralism as the wondrous expression of our fecund God.


Our dioceses rejects the time-worn belief that there is a chasm between the sacred and the profane, spirit and world. We see God’s pulsating presence in every nook and cranny of the physical universe, giving it existence, life, meaning and love. There is not the supernatural vs. the natural; there is only One: all that is, is within God. There is a reason in John 17:15 that Jesus did not pray that his followers be taken out of the world: it is that this is the world given to us by the Father to discover God-Within.


Our participation in the dawning of the pastoral church in the new Christian era, is not a restoration of things past; it is a willing transformation – led by the Spirit – toward something fresh and unknown, whatever that might be. We predict nothing. We predetermine nothing. We anticipate nothing … other than that the Spirit is with us, and that she will excite our future with love and joy and a realization of the blazing presence of God in all we do and all we are.


“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
– Native American wisdom


The Pastoral Perspective 


The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit seek, first of all, to be an openly welcoming church, assiduously tearing down all barriers that keep people from participation in the experience of God, fashioned in community with other people of similar good will. 


Secondly, we seek to manifest the Gospel messages in current, relevant and meaningful terms to people in today’s world who are hungry for real spirituality – not sugar-coated, condemning, authoritative, or codified institutional religion. 


No Barriers


In the Gospels, it is clear that Jesus erected no walls to keep any category of people on the outside. Quite the contrary, Jesus made consistent, conscious effort to include those whom society rejected. Jesus was constantly in the company of women, who were ostracized and shut out from meaningful participation and leadership in the Israel of Jesus’ time. Mary Magdalene, Martha, and other women were his “administrative staff” for travels and lodgings. His mother, Mary, was with him more than might be expected for a grown man of that time and era. It was a woman at the well whom he approached. It was a woman, Mary Magdalene, whom he was said to have loved deeply and who was the first to find the empty tomb and report the resurrection to the apostles. It was mainly the women who stayed by Jesus’ side during the crucifixion.


Jesus called the little children to sit with him, at an era when children were not to be seen and were considered of so little importance that they were not mentioned or noticed. Yet Christ used them as models for us all to be like. This was a slap in the face of his culture’s caste system.


At a time when the Jewish people were captive to the Roman empire, Jews kept themselves separate by ritual purifications, circumcision for males, food laws, and all sorts of structures that were designed to keep them from being assimilated into another culture. The Romans were their despicable captors. Yet, Jesus accepted them and interacted with them respectfully. He cured the daughter of the centurion and said he had not found greater faith than that of the centurion in all of Israel. Another centurion, at the crucifixion, stated that surely this was the Son of God.


Those who were sick or were mentally ill were ostracized and considered possessed by demons. Yet Christ took them to himself and treated them with human respect and with the recognition of their status as children of God.


On and on, in case after case, story after story, Jesus raised no barriers to anyone. His love and absolute acceptance was pervasive. And so, how could we do less? We in the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit try to keep that ideal. Everyone is welcome to the love of Christ. Everyone is welcome in this church which is dedicated to birthing this Christ-force in the world.


Gays and lesbians are welcome, for this is their church also. Divorced people seeking remarriage are welcome; if God is love – the surest thing we know – then it is God who gives them the free gift of love again … and we do not need to validate that for God. People who disagree with what others hold as dogmas, doctrines or creeds, or people who may have a different philosophical approach to life, but who still hold to the centrality of Jesus’ message – all those find a place with us if they wish. 

People who follow their own consciences, even if those consciences are in conflict with what others find to be “moral” – such as people who live together outside the marriage bond, people who have abortions or practice birth control, people who make judgments about life and death issues, etc. – there are no barriers to these or any other people within the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit.


It is crucial to the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit that we place no more restrictions on people than Christ would have placed. We do not wish to merit his excoriation as modern-day hypocrites who would place burdensome laws and rules on people which do not recognize the spirit of God living within them.


Ours is not a welcome that ensnares them, only to ultimately want to transform them into our version of who they should be. The first public face of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit is its openness to one and all, an openness that is sincere and that honors each and every person as a reflection, a manifestation, an individuation of God. Within such an environment, it is our desire that people will be able to grow at their own divinely-inspired pace and direction.


A Dynamic and Engaging Presentation of the
Beauty of the Christ Message


We can knock down all the barriers we want, but once people feel welcome enough to want to join with us, it is necessary to present the other public face of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit. That face is our constant attempt to present the message Jesus had for us all in such a way that it be recognized as relevant, meaningful, engaging, exciting, fulfilling, challenging, joyful, creative and dynamic. Here people should be able to find ways to live the experience of God, not just learn about God.


Christianity lived through the first sixteen or seventeen centuries of its existence under the clouded impression that there were two existences: God’s world above is perfection and our world below is sinful, imperfect, buffeted by “Satan,” struggling to escape its “bondage,” trapped in evil so powerful that, without Jesus’ saving hand, we would be incapable of pulling ourselves from everlasting damnation. This frame of mind believed that everything we did not understand — and that was most of everything, from the physical universe to human bodies — happened because ”God did it,” and it was a “miracle.” Enwrapped in all this was the fact that life was relatively bleak. If you had a bad day, you did not call your friend on the phone and chat; you did not go out for dinner or a movie; you did not plop your feet up in front of the TV. There were no vacations to look forward to, or any DisneyWorlds to visit. Life held not much reward, and so people generally looked forward to their reward in heaven, and could endure the difficulties of this world if they kept their eye on the next.


Science changed all that. As we discovered that God was not pulling the strings to directly intervene in making things happen, humanity lost interest is any such distant, non-involved God. The myths that motivated humanity dissipated. The fear of retribution became more remote. Enjoyments were closer at hand. Life gradually took on more fulfillment here and now. 


At the same time, we discovered the fantastic story of creation, how, approximately 13.7 billion years ago, Great Power expressed itself in physical manifestation. We saw that incredible odds were overcome time after time, so that today’s results (and tomorrow’s) could occur. We learned how an evolving creation brought forth the almost unbelievable array of diversity, all part of an interlocking system of life. 


We discovered, only recently in the 1960s, that the basic “building blocks” of all existence, the stuff of which subatomic particles are made are energy waves! The same energy that originally moved to put the universe into being is the oneness of energy that we now see which underlies every facet of that creation. (In fact, "energy" moving is called, in religious terms, "spirit' .. in fact "holy" spirit in scientific terms, the movement of spirit is called "energy.")  A oneness of Energy that is so intelligent that it manifests itself in this incredible diversity all around us, an Energy that is not only Intelligent, but is also Spirit, Power, Life … Divinity.


Our conclusion has to be that we live within this Divinity and this Divinity lives within us. We are all – all of creation and all people – manifestations of this God, whom the Christian Gospels tell us is Love. The one word that sums up this magnificent beneficial movement is Love.


Seeing this, knowing this, understanding this … we can marvel at the eloquence, the brilliance, the simplicity of expression and lived-life that Jesus brought to us. He personified these truths. He knew them and expressed them. He shunned being acknowledged as God himself, because he knew that we are all manifestations of God, and even said that greater things than he did, we would do. 


He made manifest the Christ-power within himself by his conscious choice of Love at every instance, his not keeping that God-Power-Love to himself but by his prodigious sharing of it with those he contacted and then with the rest of us through time. His life’s message was that this is to be our lived-experience as well, not simply our allegiance to guidelines, principals, mantras, or doctrines.


The spirituality of Christ is a one-world view. It portrays God as imbued within the universe, not separate from it. Today, people have returned to this perspective as their motivating outlook on life, although many have never articulated such words or thought the philosophy of life through. It has just become innate within us. All of the world around us soaks in on us and tells us this is so. 


And so the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit recognize this beauty of the unfettered Christian message in today’s language and today’s perspective. The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit see it as powerfully motivating and magnificently joyful. The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit know that this message, transmitted clearly, has the searing ability to light up the cynical among us, the burned out, the spiritual seekers, the jaded floaters-through-life, and those left perplexed by a myriad of competing notions about how things are. The preaching of this message is who we are and what we must do.

It is proper that our ordained personnel and our local communities seeking camaraderie and strength identify primarily with the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit for the limited hierarchical structure they provide – limited necessarily to produce freedom and vitality. For those who find Apostolic Succession and faculties from bishops to be important, One Spirit Catholic Dioceses provide ordination and incardination. 


One Spirit Catholic Dioceses do not hold Apostolic Succession as a sine qua non to God’s graces, because that comes to everyone at every time and at every place, regardless of what we do or who we are. However, a continuum from the beginnings of Christianity to today and beyond is valuable and with merit, and these dioceses provide that.



The Current Ministries of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit


The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit look toward living and expressing – preaching through word and deed – the freeing and life-giving message of Jesus, the Christ. We wish to un-encumber it from its centuries of encrustations, not true to the original message of Jesus, which now put so many people off. 


Some of our members are already pastors in various denominations and love parish/congregation life.  We honor such commitments.  We also honor any expression of becoming a follower of The Way which brings individuals closer to living the life of Love Jesus invited us to, and we scrape away the lesser things that get in the way of that. Out concentration has been – and will unfold as time goes on in other substantive ways – to reach out to the 100% of human beings all loved equally and unequivocally by God, and not just to the 20% or so who maintain a strong tie to traditional “Church” life.


The following are the current ministries of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit which reach beyond the traditional parish landscape: 


  • Teaching. Nothing reaches people more substantively than education. Many in our diocese are involved in teaching in many different ways.
  • Prison Care. Hope for those society generally abandons.
  • Physically and Mentally Ill / Death and Bereavement. Half the gospel stories are of Jesus ministering to the ill and those transitioning to new life. An essential part of Christianity.
  • Love of Animals / Love of God. Feeling love is experiencing God, because God IS Love. The love of people for their pets is a forgotten but powerful way to recognize love in one of its strongest forms.
  • Weddings / Baptisms / Funerals. Many people may not participate in Sunday services, but they want the major milestones of their lives blessed with an acknowledgment of the depth of spirituality they feel inside. Many of our priests report reaching 2,000 to 30,000 new people each year through these sacraments. One reached 250,00 per year.
  • Writing and Internet Presence. Enlightenment comes through wisdom and knowledge. Reaching the world through writing does provide Internet reach.
  • Children. Laying a foundation for spirituality begins in childhood.
  • Ministerial Administration. Providing the backbone of the diocese fosters the good work the members of the diocese do. Providing administration for a religious order fosters the good work of that order. Providing a vehicle for hundreds of others to engage in ministerial work.
  • Anti-Discrimination / Loving Acceptance for ALL God’s people. Gays and lesbians are especially demonized by much of society, as anti-Christian as any practice could be. Many of our members are leaders against such human abuse. Also, helping women to reach innate equality in society and church is fundamental justice.
  • Counseling. Care of the soul.
  • Homeless. Working with street people.
  • Public Speaking / Retreats. Going out to new audiences with the spiritual message of Jesus. 


The Potential Ministries of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit


There are many ministries which fit into our objective of establishing and providing new structures of spirituality. The following list is neither exhaustive nor limiting. There will be other forms of ministry that individuals will already be engaged in or will create out of observation of need. The following list is intended as ...


  1. An opportunity, for any current members of the dioceses or for those considering joining the dioceses, to become a part of something which they can step into immediately if they so wish, as these options are desires of the dioceses so far not begun; and/or
  2. Examples of the kinds of ministries that are possible at the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit, and which may inspire others to enter with their own unique bent, skill, or talent. 

Daily Spirituality Newsletter
Each day an email will go out to our list of (currently) thousands of email addresses (and growing daily) derived from www.WeddingCeremony.org. Everyone will be invited to submit friends and family email addresses for invitation to receive the newsletter. It will come sporadically but often, be short and pithy, and hopefully have an impact.


Weekly Home Liturgies
In the early church, families and groups of friends celebrated an informal, down-home liturgy in their own homes and gatherings. A priest was not required. Such a practice could be an attraction to many people today. We will create home liturgies of different themes, sent weekly by email, and with discussion questions, suggesting also that a dinner (pot-luck for gatherings of more than the family) would be appropriate. 


Quarterly Self-Directed “Re-Treats”
We wish to begin sending out via email quarterly “Re-Treats” for individuals or (preferably) couples or groups to use. They would either find a beautiful nature trail near their house or go away overnight to an Bed and Breakfast. Each Re-Treat would have a different theme or focus, and would be designed for reading of a passage or passages, followed by a silent walk to another nature destination along the trail, while contemplating the meaning of the passage(s) just read. 


“Spiritual Netflix.”
Just as Netflix offers movies by mail or Internet for a fixed price, we hope to go to the managers of Netflix and ask to do a joint venture with them, in which we would identify appropriate movies for spiritual content, create a home liturgy and a series of “starter” discussion questions to be attached to each spiritual movie, and then to have Netflix operate the management of mailings and movie maintenance just as they do for their broader program. It seems that, while most people do not go to church, they often like book clubs (except for the homework involved). Movie clubs for things of a spiritual nature, combined with the entertainment and social value of having friends and/or family over could be a draw to many. Such local spiritual movie clubs could be held at homes, at coffee houses, at movie theaters, etc., depending on the size and scope of the individual effort. 


Spirituality Centers
We encourage entrepreneurial priests who would wish to establish a facility to host weddings, retreats, marriage counseling classes, lectures, spiritual friendship (formerly “spiritual direction”), widow/widower counseling, grief counseling, etc. Especially located in nature and being a place of respite and/or entertainment will be attractive. (See below.)


Community Economic Development
The setting up of grass roots identification of community needs in poor areas of America, Africa and South America, and the linking of corporations to provide directly the resources and personnel to solve those needs. This will require grantsmanship, to obtain at least initial funding. 


Providing Prayer / Holding Sacred Space
Individuals focusing attention and energy, in quiet reflection, as a background and support mechanism for an event. 


Entertainment
The securing of a facility for dinner shows, entertainment (live musical entertainment, dancing, readings), which might attract a large audience, while at the same time conveying a positive spiritual message with the entertainment. 


MySpace / YouTube / text messaging.
Somehow or other finding ways to reach a youthful audience through the techniques used by them. 


Home Churches
Home churches are just what some people – though not all people – are looking for. They began as a solution for reform that did not come quickly enough, a reaction to parish priests who did not inspire, overcrowding resulting from too much institutional organization or too few priests spread too far, or simply the need for personal, interactive involvement. Home churches have been heralded for several decades as the emerging format for worship in the contemporary world. Yet, they have never emerged beyond minimal individual numbers and minimal cumulative numbers. In America , going into the third millennium, for example, there may be at most 3,000 home churches, usually with no more than 10-15 members. Thus, in a country of 300,000,000 people, after decades of expectations, perhaps 300,000 people (1 out of every 1,000 at most) have aligned themselves with some form of home churches. Despite all types of experimentation, the basic house church has not grown beyond being small itself and has not caught fire, abroad in the land. That is not to say that home churches are not valuable, not important, not greatly beneficial to those who attend them, not significant enough to put further thought to, not worthy of promulgation. They are all that. For those who attend, there is a deep sense of community and of personal spirituality. With more help and support, they might even flourish further.


The characteristics that seem to prevail in most home churches today are:


  • A core group of participants who are deeply interested in their spirituality, dedicated to their form of “church”, articulate and willing to talk, committed to living the Christ message and keeping their groups going.
  • Meeting in private homes, in living rooms or dining rooms, often rotating between the homes of core members.
  • Inviting of others. Core membership will change over time, but while some join, others drop off for one or another reason. Many come once or twice then do not return. Memberships average 10 attendees, and top out at 20, as a general rule.
  • Celebrates liturgies or the Eucharist informally, without vestments, though sometimes with a stole, using a form of the Roman order of Mass, but deviating often in style and content, without concern or supervision.
  • Sometimes the presiding is shared by members, ordained or not. Sometimes the presiding is done by non-canonical Roman priests who had left the active ministry (e.g., to get married, etc.) and officiate without “faculties” from a bishop or approval of “The Church.” “Women’s Eucharists” are presided over by one or more women, often not ordained by the Roman or other form of Catholic Church.
  • Getting together outside of their Eucharistic celebrations varies widely by group. Some communities engage in social action; some have social functions to enjoy each other’s company more; some have none.
  • People potentially interested in becoming members have many initial hurdles to overcome: 1) unintended intimidation by a group that is fervent, interested and articulate, even if inviting; 2) going to a private home, which evokes feelings of intruding on a clique or an established order; 3) confronting a presider who often is not sanctioned by the church’s hierarchical leadership, who wears no vestments, and who invites participation; and 4) commitment to core values and a schedule of activities, with a loss of anonymity.

The Question of Ordination for the Presider
Home churches have caused the theological question of necessity of ordination for the presider at Eucharist to come to the fore, whereas in the past there would never have been any question but that only the ordained priest or bishop could preside at a parish Mass. A great many “Masses” are now presided over by non-ordained men or women. Are these truly “Masses?” 


Moreover, where Eucharists are presided over by ordained priests, very often these priests have left the canonical priesthood, been “laicized” (whatever craziness that may mean), forbidden to administer the sacraments except on the most stringent or rare emergency basis, and now operate on the edge of a system that clearly rejects them and what they are doing. To what extent are these non-canonically presided Eucharists a part of, or separate from, the whole “church?”


Christ never “ordained” anyone, but he did choose The Twelve. Upon Jesus’ resurrection, his core of followers kept intact his only organization, The Twelve, by electing (but not having Peter “select,” you will notice) Matthias to replace Judas. Soon thereafter, when they figured out that Jesus was not coming back as quickly as they thought, the earliest followers of Jesus destroyed this only organization he set up. We know this because the Acts of the Apostles tells us that James, the brother of Jesus, was bishop of Jerusalem (with, perhaps, more authority than Peter), and he was not one of the original apostles, from “Jesus’ organization,” The Twelve. We see clearly that the HOW of organization is not explicitly from Christ, but can freely change as times and necessities dictate.


There appears to be historical and theological dispute about which members of the community were able to preside at Eucharist in the early Church. Minimally, we do know that there was a process for selection of leaders. We see this in the process used to select deacons, and bishops who were the heads of small local churches. It is also likely that when there were only bishops and deacons, women were both. If Eucharist was or was not presided over by priests or bishops in the earliest church, it did not take very long before such a practice was prevalent and written about.


Theologically, we should ask – in keeping with contemporary understanding of the Eucharist – what actually happens at Mass. Does a single person, by power bestowed, actually change the physical elements so that others can then “feed” on those sanctified elements? Or does the community, through its expanding awareness of the mystical presence of the Christ-power residing in all creation (that which Jesus had in full, and that which we all possess in a perhaps now-limited but nevertheless leavening way) call into being the recognition of that reality for each of us who so participates? The answer makes a difference as to whether ordination would be “required.”


A middle opinion as to who can preside – awaiting further theological arguments – would seem to be that an ordained person is not a necessity for Eucharist, but certainly would be the ideal, in keeping with the tradition of the church.


Home churches presently receive no widespread or national encouragement from any other major church organization. Nobody ordains priests for home churches or maintains a support system. The seeds have simply blown wild and bloomed spontaneously.


A Stance for the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit
The Catholic Diocese of One Spirit has both jettisoned the arcane rules and regulations of the past, and, at the same time, opened itself to forms of participation in the God-experience that are relevant and enhancing to the core of who we are: manifestations of God. Where the people of God have a need, we erect no barriers to prohibit the expression of their desired spirituality. And, clearly, like the wind, the Spirit blows where it will, including home churches.


Thus, one of the elements of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit is to assist home churches to flourish. It may not be the be-all and end-all of church experience, but it is a significant and worthy for a notable minority of spiritual seekers. Because home churches do not seem to be specifically encouraged by other religious organizations, the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit provide a welcome structure for these types of communities.


Elements of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit’s support of home churches include but are not limited to the following:


  • An active program to ordain community priests as leaders from home churches of three or more members, who have met regularly on a weekly or bi-weekly basis for a minimum of six months, and whose designated leader gives evidence of a calling to the priesthood, meets the criteria described in this document, and has a minimum of academic achievement or knowledge of selected subjects of importance for a person holding that role.
  • Provision of optional liturgies for home church use, tempered toward the size and intimacy of such a group.
  • Newsletter for communication, education, “family” news, community links, building camaraderie, sharing of liturgies and ideas, etc.  Through the Dioceses the various home churches are aware of their presence within a community of the larger church and of other home churches.
  • Through the Dioceses, bishops are available for ordination of home church priests and for confirmations, and for loving embrace of these home churches’ peer relationship with other such home churches and spirituality centers of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit.
  • Through its affiliation with the Dioceses and other home churches, it is possible to join together at various times (e.g., Christmas, Easter, etc.) for larger celebrations and recognition of mutual Christian camaraderie.

Undoubtedly, many people will move back and forth between home churches and area spirituality centers – formerly and usually termed (because they are larger) “parishes”. Home churches, among other sources as well, are breeding grounds for priests who then feel the call to bring their spirituality to wider audiences who need it and ask for it.


Spirituality Centers can be formed from among such Community Priests who wish to move further, or from participants at home churches that feel such a calling. Moreover, retiring priests from Spirituality Centers, or priests whose secular jobs became pressing, or priests who became ill and could not handle the full pressures of a Spirituality Center, always have a less time-intensive and pressure-intensive role as Community Priests which they could fall back upon.


Spirituality Centers
The Typical Roman Catholic parish cannot be a model for the communities of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit. Such a Roman parish system was formulated a long time ago, and has now grown up with a financial structure to support both it and the activities it carries on. Moreover, existing Roman Catholic parishes or Protestant congregations usually fulfill the diminishing demand for such facilities. 


The inability of a Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit priest to be able to finance that kind of typical parish structure may be the blessing in disguise that lets us rethink what a different kind of “parish” should be in the 21st century. The recent historical parish that Americans are used to is stereotypically a large structure with thousands of families that provides, primarily, liturgical and structured sacraments. It is for “Catholics Only” and is generally not designed to be of service to people who are not Catholic.


It appears, however, that super structures of thousands of parishioners are not as “user-friendly” as a smaller parish of 200-400 parishioners, some of whom would be very active, some just showing up for Sunday services and nothing else, but all of whom would be recognized, known, and feel themselves part of a “family.” 


Occasionally, such a parish would or could grow larger, but it seems that contemporary society, with its loss of community and extended family relationships, would be well served by a spiritual institution that built upon real interpersonal relationships.


Moreover, such a structure, often costing several million dollars, requires the historical financial demonstration of a diocese that has been around decades, perhaps a century or more. The diocese needs to be able to prove consistent income, through various pastors coming and going, sufficient to repay such a large loan. 


In order for a “parish” such as might be formed by a Catholic Diocese of One Spirit priest to be able to afford the purchase, or even the long-term rental, of such a large property, a consistent history of contributions over many years, made through the terms of not just one pastor who might have been loved, but through many pastorates would be required. Additionally, any bona fide lender would require security of equal value to protect its loan. Typically, a most difficult proposition for any small church community.


Moreover, many of the leaders of the parish would be required to personally guarantee the loan, so that if the parish itself failed to live up to its loan obligations, the lender would take the security put up by the endorsing parishioners. Such a scenario, if attempted, is not one that makes for a happy parish life. 


Unless a Catholic Diocese of One Spirit parish is content to rent small facilities (e.g., community centers or schools) that do not require strong credit, it will never be able to grow into something the size of a reasonable parish facility. … at least under the expected financing routes in place today. Some other way to finance a church facility must be utilized.


A CDOS “Celebration Center”
Before that, however, let us expand the idea of a Catholic Diocese of One Spirit facility. It should be a place that serves the whole community, and not just its Catholic element. It should be a place that the surrounding neighborhoods – and people within them who may or may not “go to church” – can feel is a place to have their children baptized, their marriages blessed, their dead buried, their teens feel secure and invited, their visions expanded through discussion groups and seminars, their focal point turned toward this community…and all whether or not they actually belong to our church or come to our services. In order not to confuse such a facility with a typical parish, it could be named differently, to identify its new standing in the community: “The (Name of Neighborhood) Celebration Center”.


Of course, each Celebration Center could also be the location of “The (Name of Neighborhood) Catholic Community”, and each Sunday, Mass held there also. The Catholic Community would run the Celebration Center as a service to others. Should others, liking our openness, our acceptance of all, and our lived philosophy, feel attracted to our Sunday services, they are also most welcome. However, recruitment is not our purpose; living the loving life Christ did is our purpose. Each Catholic Community is a focal point of bringing love and service to others.


Each Catholic Community has its internal activities in addition to its open programs to the community. It may engage in help to an inner city charity (homeless shelter, battered women’s shelter, children’s home, etc.), or to a poor foreign area (“sister parish” for a poor foreign country parish, necessities of life to war-torn regions, health care assistance for an African village, etc.), or sponsor a big brothers or big sisters program locally to provide adult companionship to youth with no father or mother. It could be any of hundreds of activities. 


Such activities are also open for local people to join with the Catholic Community, not just for the bona fide members of the community who attend church regularly. When people come to weddings, funerals or seminars, they get flyers on the ways we lend assistance to others, and are invited to join that activity (without having to join the church or attend our services).


How to Acquire a Facility for a Celebration Center


A Celebration Center should not look like every other church, and it should convey physically the fact that is it not like every other church. When people see that this looks different, they then expect it to be different. At least they are inquisitive. It is imperative for us that a facility be set in lush (or potentially lush!) gardens or panoramic vistas, where the beauty of nature enhances the beauty of the thought process that goes on there. The more visible it is to a well-traveled road in the community, the better. However, it should avoid, if possible, being set up against a main highway, as many of the events (weddings, services, socials, discussions, etc.) will take place outdoors, and if the facility is too near a main highway, the traffic noise will be unnerving and will make the outdoor experience an unpleasant one. The building itself should look more like a bed-and-breakfast meeting facility. In this way, it has warmth and appeal to the locality.


The Celebration Center Site should ideally be able to accommodate weddings for 200 guests, services to seat approximately 250, funerals, seminar and discussion groups, etc. With this number, it will be able to attract events many facilities cannot handle. If this number is too great for your plans, remember that most events are under 150 guests. The facility will need an adequate kitchen, or, more probably, a clean room for caterers.


For most localities, building is a lengthy period, often taking 18-24 months just for permits, followed by another year of construction. To jump start the process, an existing facility could be sought. They can be found, but patience must be exercised. Something will always turn up, and the first building or so that is looked at should not be settled on simply because it is available. 


The community must be very careful to obtain the right attributes, if the property itself is to have its own attractiveness to add to the attractiveness of the Celebration Center activities. Any contract must have a contingency period in it for as long as it might take to get a zoning or permit to use the facility as a church (if such is required by the locality).


Financing the Acquisition
The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit do not have ways to help its priests and communities finance the acquisition of existing properties for Celebration Centers. The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit do not guarantee loans, because it cannot, and because members are not legally joined. 


You should first look to potential bed and breakfasts or beautiful homes, not in subdivisions with homeowner covenants. Financing the purchase of such a property is difficult, but here are some possibilities to consider: Perhaps the priest or another member of the community could purchase the home, live in a part of it, and rent it out for celebration center services, thus deriving an income from such rentals. Perhaps several families could pitch in together as an investment. 


Perhaps, on the rarest of occasions (and worth pursuing), some generous benefactor would donate such a facility (tax-deductible). Perhaps you can lease a facility with the option to buy from someone wanting to retire or move away, and who has not used it as a spirituality center, which has the potential for greater market (income) interest. There are lots of potential ways to obtain financing for the purchase of a spirituality center, but they are all difficult and time-consuming. No reason not to keep this in mind. Remember, the Holy Spirit is on your side, and this will happen if 1) it is supposed to, and 2) you work hard at it.

questions and answers


Questions for Bishop James H. Burch from Kathleen Kautzer, PhD,
on the faculty at Regis College in Weston, MA, and Program Chair. 


Dr. Kautzer is active in a number of community groups involved in peace and justice issues. Before pursuing a career in academics, she worked as a union organizer overseeing campaigns for union representation among women’s services and clerical workers. Her research reflects lifelong involvement in social movements oriented toward an egalitarian and democratic transformation of social institutions. She is interested in spirituality and its relevance to social movements, and she has authored several papers examining newly-emerging women’ s spirituality groups.



Question: I did read the bios of the ordained priests listed on your website. The information given did not give me a very clear idea of how they performed their priestly role. I realize it is probably different for each person, but I was particularly curious about their relationship to communities. Do most of these priests serve some type of small intentional community? Do they form communities after becoming ordained? Is connection to some type of community a requirement for ordination?


Answer: I don’t mean this disrespectfully, but, first of all, your question presumes what all Catholics and all Christians generally presume: closeness to God / response to the message of Jesus = participation in organized Sunday morning services (Mass for Catholics). This is a “Christian myth” of enormous and erroneous proportions, I believe. It is akin to the “Flat Earth” belief of the early centuries in history; no other option was even considered. And yet, this “myth” is not evidenced in the message of Jesus, or the activities of the Primitive Church. For Jesus, “Eucharist” occurred only twice that we know of: at the Last Supper (where it was a raucous as any contemporary Thanksgiving dinner with lots of family and friends) and after the resurrection at a bonfire on the beach, where they recognized him at the breaking of the bread. In the early church, the breaking of the bread was integrated into the everyday activities of life, with even families doing it at home with the head of the household leading the occasion. 


It is highly unlikely, I think, that Jesus had forgotten all about the Eucharist until the Last Supper and sprung what has become the centerpiece of Christian togetherness only at the last moment. It is also unlikely that he saved the announcement of the Eucharist as a “going-away present” for his followers, not telling them anything about it in his previous years of preaching. Much more likely is that what he gave them as a physical tool, a technique, was a method of remembering the essence of what he had been preaching all along: God is the “stuff” of which everything is made; if we could just see the presence of God as the life-giving energizer of all creation, then we could honor things and hold other people in awe and reverence, as Jesus did. Therefore, to make of Eucharist a set-apart, highly-ritualized, fear-inspiring (e.g., only “anointed” people can even touch the vessels!), object of worship (e.g., pressed into flat patties, kept in a golden “tabernacle,” and worshipped in Benediction services and all-night Adoration Vigils) is to distort it so much that Jesus’ original meaning is virtually lost. At least, it is clearly lost to the majority of Catholics, who generally have no idea what is going on there. It has also become the chief stumbling block to those who are not Catholics. And fails to animate virtually everybody with the substance of Jesus’ inspiration. To regain the effectiveness Jesus wanted, the Eucharist must once again become part of everyday life, used at small and large meetings of spiritually-minded people; it can be the conduit of Jesus’ essential message of divine presence. And it should often be made a part of family and community meals.


As another prelude before I answer your question directly, we should note that on any given Sunday, somewhere between 16% and 20% of the American public is actually in church. And yet, there is almost a church on every other corner. Americans have plenty of choices, and they largely choose: none. At least some of those who do attend church, we have to guess, go only out of fear. Most of those people who do not go to church, I have found to be generally wonderful people, as concerned about “spiritual” matters and loving choices as their “churched” neighbors. 


This is not to say, of course, that relevant communities of faith are not wonderfully enriching for many; they are, of course. Perhaps, even, they are the ideal – but, unfortunately, they are an ideal that does not seem to fit most people at many points in their lives.


So, then, why would we as a diocese try to replicate for the 20% what they already have in droves of choices, that is: yet another church building with structured practices? Why don’t we try some other “structures” for the 80% who do not find church services to be meeting their needs? And so, that is in large measure what we do.


You will find that having a small community of faith is not generally our priests’ main ministry, although some of them do it together with other work. We are engaged in everything from weddings, to funerals, to pet bereavement, to education, writing, hospice work, prison chaplains, homeless and orphaned or probation homes, children services, counseling, etc. We hope to soon launch a daily spirituality email (nearly 10,000 email addresses gathered so far), weekly home liturgies to be created and sent out by email, quarterly self-directed retreats, etc. We are working on ways to assist non-appointed “chaplains” to all the various groups to which people already belong (e.g., VFW, PTA, Lions, little league, etc.). 


We are working on ways to integrate Eucharist into everyday life. We are at the beginning of a never-ending and always-changing series of other structures to supplement or substitute for those who do not find Sunday morning services fulfilling enough to attend. We follow the assumption that there is not just one way to re-charge the batteries of one’s Christian faith, of enriching one’s spiritual life, but rather there are a myriad of them. We are always trying new ways to respond to people’s contemporary desires that spiritual enrichment and growth not be merely a series of outward practices, but rather an inward journey to greater joy, a blossoming of the God-Within.


Current or potential priests who come to us overwhelmingly are already engaged in a facet of this kind of spiritual work. They have recognized a call to clarifying their Christian role through ordination and participation in an affirming group of like-minded individuals, which is the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit (among others).


--------------


Question: Once a priest becomes ordained, what is his obligation to you and to One Spirit? Does he/she pays dues, attend meetings etc.? I was also wondering if maintaining connections is a problematic issue that may have inspired the consideration of the proposed vow renewal.


Answer: There is no “obligation” to the bishop or to the diocese. All people who are deacons, priests and bishops in the diocese joined voluntarily and remain voluntarily. There are no “assignments” and nobody has to ask anybody else if it is okay to engage in his or her ministry. There are no bosses and no gurus. No matter the role of the individual, all of us are equal. Some mentor others, but each helps the other to grow, always a two-way street. We recognize that we are all “broken” in some way, and are all in the process of healing toward our full selves, the recognizable and emanating presence of God. No matter our various Christian roles, we encourage and supplement each other.


We also recognize that there will be times when individuals feel called to disengage for a short period or for a long time from what is traditionally called “ministry.” This is accepted as part of each individual’s journey and blessed by the others. Deacons, priests or bishops may go inactive for a while or they may leave the diocese, either for good or to join another group which may resonate more closely with them at that point in their journey. This is the way life is. This is the way individuals grow and make choices, and it is the Holy Spirit working in each wonderful person.


At the moment, the diocese does not even have a check book or any income. Everything is done voluntarily. Perhaps in the future, this may have to change, but it works fine for now. There are no payments, no dues, no financial obligations, made by deacons, priests or bishops to the diocese. We hope to have annual or bi-annual councils/dinners/fellowships (what to call them that doesn’t sound too “churchy”?!), which we have already begun, but there is no rule that everyone has to attend, because that is unrealistic. We also note that people who are regionally close get together from time to time.


---------------


Question: Do you have local communities, small parishes, and what are they like?


Answer: We either have no small communities of faith, or they are quite small and not the essential part of our work. Gravitating more towards the works described above, we feel we are answering the call of the Holy Spirit for our times. As the 12 Step programs emphasize: when you do the same thing over and over and get the same response, what makes you think that if you do it the same way again the response will be different?


-------------


Question: I recall reading an article about one year ago in Corpus Reports in which you described communication with a very conservative Catholic priest in your area. He apparently admitted that his traditional version of Catholicism was not likely to survive among future generations in the U.S. I was wondering if you had any other dialogues with priests within the institutional church regarding the future of Catholicism or their view of One Spirit.


Answer: You mean “Roman” Catholic priest! I speak now mostly with priests who are not “Roman.” However, I have many friends who are canonical Roman Catholic priests, most of whom I was in the seminary with, and then a few others. I rarely speak with canonical Roman Catholic priests who are not friends of long-standing, I suppose because we are all very busy in our own strata, which rarely mix. Those I have spoken with seem to only look at things from WITHIN the framework of the church. They rarely understand people who are not Catholics and sort of view them as benevolent aliens. They don’t identify with them or reach out to them, and they speak only the in-club language of Catholicism. The old joke was that the largest American church was the Catholic Church, and the second largest was former Catholics. 


Today there are significantly more “former” Catholics than “practicing” Catholics. (However, I tell those who say they are “former Catholics” that they are indeed good Catholics if they are working at becoming more loving people, and that going to church on Sunday is just a technique that they may or may not use in that process, as it meets their needs.) Few inside the Roman Catholic Church, it seems, know what to do about the dwindling numbers and the lowering of the percentage of people who are members, other than to grumble about their flocks and to blame those who reject church attendance as being morally negligent. They refuse to see the Holy Spirit at work at all eras and cultures, and their failure to respond to the needs of the times.


--------------


Question: What is the age composition of persons who belong to One Spirit? Are young people represented and/or active in your communities?


Answer: As to deacons, priests and bishops, we have all ages in the diocese. Two are in their twenties, two are in their seventies, and the others are spread out in between. As to communities, when we had small communities of faith meeting, these were – like all others similar to them around the country – largely populated by older people, a significant portion being senior citizens. Young people usually do not come to small communities of faith because they have zero interest. Families with children usually do not come because their children need services that only larger communities/parishes can offer. Now that we are engaged in everyday “ministries,” we, of course, are mixed in with all ages, just like society at large. 


We are making a special effort to let women know what we are doing, so that they might feel opportunity and welcome. Women are the greatest blessing of the church today, its most unused resource, and its greatest promise of resurgence. We pray that as many women as possible who feel the call to ordained ministry will at least find out about the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit and know that this is an option for them, if they so wish.


We also suspect that we do not “teach” people anything. We put into words what already resonates within them. We articulate their goals and aspirations. We serve them and struggle together. It is simply amazing, and always personally inspiring, to hear so many times: “That is what I believe; I just never thought of it that way before.”


--------------


Question:  Judging by what I have read from your website, I conclude that you value apostolic succession and “the real presence” in the Eucharist. Is that a correct assumption? I’m sure you are familiar with theologians who challenge these beliefs. For example, are you familiar with Eucharist with a small “e” by Miriam Therese Winter, who insists that “spirit of Jesus” is present when believers gather for worship. A number of Catholic theologians have skirted the issue, but come close to suggesting the Eucharist is merely a symbolic presence (for example, Bernard Cooke, Leonard Boff (no longer a priest) and Raymond Pannikar.) Where do you stand on this controversy?


Answer: I suspect that if 1,000 bishops, 1,000 baptized Christians, and 1,000 theologians were each asked that question, there would be 3,000 different answers. Because the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit has no dogmas or doctrines, we do not “define” or over-theologize on that one. We are aware of the range of opinions on this question, some of which you have alluded to above. My opinion is that, just mine. However, I suspect that most of the deacons, priests and bishops of this diocese would at least be pointing in the same direction as my answer to you on this question.


I do believe in the “real presence” of Jesus in the Eucharist, though probably in a more global perspective than most would presently hold. In the Aramaic understanding (Jesus’ spoken language) of his “stump speech,” the Beatitudes, it is clear that Jesus sees each of us engaged in the process of breathing in and out the universe. 


In other words, every second in time and every choice is the process of our spiritual growth, the reason for our existence on this plane. His parables, used to explain this very mystical essential message, overwhelmingly talked about the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven and the Reign of God – all of which meant, to him, the all-pervasive and life-giving presence of God within everything … “at hand” and “within.” To Jesus, there was no nook and no cranny not infused with the Energy, Power, Intelligence, Spirit and Life which is the Benevolent Force we call God. This was his constant and drumming message.


Today, in light of scientific discoveries, we know that beneath each atom is the Energy (vibrations which alternately look like particles, then back to vibrating energy, then particles again … so fast that the eye cannot see them, and at which point physical reality comes into existence), the Intelligence (even at its most minute, this new matter can hold itself together, identify what it is in relationship to other different matter around it, and somehow cluster together to ultimately form all the complexity of the universe), the Spirit (because it precedes matter) and the Life (because look what comes from it). This is what we call God – what Jesus would have called God, if he had known of these words and these concepts.


Therefore, everything already IS an individuated manifestation of God … every thing and every person. 

Everything already IS the “body” and the “blood” of God. At the Last Supper, Jesus took the ordinary elements of what humans do constantly (eat) and what family and friends do when they gather (eat) and identified them as his body and his blood. He said it IS “my body … my blood,” not that it would become such when magic words were spoken, rather it already is. It “becomes” the body and blood of Jesus for us, WHEN we recognize it as such. The family or community leader (often, but not necessarily, the priest) points that out for us and causes it, then, to “become” that for us through our acknowledgment. But he/she does not “change it into” the body and blood of Jesus from something that was not beforehand.


What has been largely camouflaged for many centuries as a magical tabletop trick, entrusted only to certain set-aside, elevated men (spiritual magicians?) is not that at all. It is more correctly an amazing, wonderful, enlightening gesture of reality. It is a magnificent tool, a wholesome process, for helping us to remember the most essential truth for our soul’s growth: the all-pervasive presence of God. The Eucharist is meant to be a significant and material teaching-aid to this core element of understanding our purpose here on earth.


In this light, it can be revitalized. With this understanding it can be made a part of everyday life – taken out from the dusty sanctuaries of irrelevancy. That is one of the things this diocese seeks to do. 


The structure of the Church as we see it today is crumbling all around us. One hundred years from now, institutional church – as defined by people tied to parish buildings – will be a pale shadow of what it is today. People will be much more interior-ly spiritual, seriously seeking to experience their best selves – which is, of course, that God-Within. Rome will recognize – both out of practical necessity followed by enlightenment – many various forms of Catholicism (such as this diocese) as legitimate, as they will recognize Orthodox and Protestant denominations as validly part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Litmus tests of orthodoxy will largely have melted away, and there will be a free-flow of ideas. In this unity will be great diversity, and it will be acknowledged as good. 


But there will also be some furor on the way to that reality.


--------------


Question:  You describe One Spirit as welcoming everyone and imposing no doctrinal creeds, etc. But aren’t there some core beliefs of Christianity, such as opposition to violence, greed, cruelty, the seven deadly sins etc.? Of course there is considerable controversy regarding how these principles apply to the modern world. 


By the same token, however, could you condone a perspective of a post-modernist who insisted that there are no absolute values, and you can’t make any judgments about human behavior, even extremely destructive behavior like torture and genocide? I realize you probably don’t have persons with these perspectives flocking to your communities, but aren’t there some limits to your tolerance and openness? 


Does the fact that you describe yourself as Christian and rooted in the Catholic tradition imply (however loosely defined) a core set of values and beliefs? For example, would you criticize on moral grounds the sexual abuse by clergy?


Answer: Organized Christian spirituality (religion) gets itself into trouble inevitably when it jettisons its main mission of spotlighting, articulating for others to consider, and presenting a living example of the beauty of Jesus’ wisdom and message – in favor of a set of time-frozen, culturally and historically locked, intellectually-confining, and dusty “magisterium-based” set of teachings. The juice from the sap of life just dries up. “Life and life more abundantly” wilts. The primitive church had no established dogmas or doctrines … in large measure because if they stuck their heads too high, somebody in the Roman Empire civil government would chop them off. 


They were “Christians” simply if they thought Jesus had the right ideas, and so they wanted to be like Jesus and to follow him. They were known as “followers of The Way.” They were recognized by the evident respect and love they showed for one another. That surely sounds like a better model than a strict adherence to someone else’s list of theological positions. So, as a diocese, we want to be more life-like and less theologically rigid.


Given that, however, we deeply seek to follow the life principles of Jesus. We want to speak to the essentials, and hold them as a way of life. That implies, as you suggest, that love and compassion, care for the poor, seeing all of creation as a manifestation of God, and Jesus’ life as a model for our own are essentials to who we are. 


We could not, for example, reconcile with the abuse of others; those who torture or sexually abuse others are simply incompatible with who we are as individuals and as a diocese. We do decipher whether an ordained person wishing to join our diocese or a person seeking ordination is compatible with our diocesan character, by discernment between the applicant and the discernment group of the diocese. 


We do not have hard and fast rules for this, but want it to be a mutual, breathing understanding that emerges within the exchanges. Hopefully, this process will endure if and when we grow larger. 


We would not condemn people whom we did not feel compatible with our diocese, should we determine that there was no fit for them with us, but we would rather suggest they look for another route in their spiritual journey. We do not think that we are “the only way,” or even “the best way;” we are just the best way for who we are as individuals and as a group organized as this kind of a Catholic diocese.


On the subject of “absolute values,” I would like to express my personal opinion, though it is not anything like an “official” position of the diocese. There is “absolute value”, and that is God. God manifests God’s self in all of creation, all of the universe, and in all people. But in those manifestations, the higher sentient portion of the very universe of creation itself (humanity) is gifted with a most extraordinary blessing: free choice. 


All of the positive joys and beauties in this physical plane are God’s way of letting us experience Who We Are. All the difficulties of our own choosing (what others call “evil” or “sin”), together with all the negative occurrences in our lives (such as death of loved ones, financial ruin, loss of loving relationships, debilitating diseases, etc.) are God’s way of our ultimately experiencing Who We Are Not, so that we can more passionately chose our positive God-Life (“Christ-Consciousness”) out of revulsion to our negative experience. 


Thus, all is good … eventually. We seek the Absolute, but we are very often misled by others or by ourselves, as long as we are in this world, given us for that purpose. We will not achieve the absolute until we achieve the perfection of Jesus, which Jesus assures us will eventually be ours. Our own individual assumptions about what is “absolute value” will necessarily slide and change, depending upon our sociological, historical and cultural context, and upon where we are in our soul’s journey.


And the WHOLE of that journey is “good” because it is what God gives us as the process of our self-redemption, our growing into our full Christ-Consciousness. At any given time, I believe, our best way to align ourselves with the Absolute Value that is God is to ask ourselves, “What would Love do now?”


--------------


Question: Do you have any contact with other non-Roman networks that claim roots in Catholicism. Are you aware of any effort to unify or bring together these networks of “underground” Catholic Churches?


Answer: Yes, I know many of them well. We don’t think of ourselves as “underground,” however, because we are very active and right out in the open. I have met with them and dined with them at various conferences and at some of their headquarters. I suggested to some that Catholic Dioceses which were progressive ought to band together in a loose confederation so as to have a greater solidarity. 


At some future point, we hope to start off with a small array of Catholic dioceses who are progressive, and then invite others to join. We will only be inviting those who have a progressive theology and who are actively engaged in ministry (that is, many so-called Catholic “independent churches” are dress-up only). Any “Catholic” diocese could belong, including Roman Catholic, but we don’t anticipate many Romans … at least not initially (the first 50-100 years)!


I think very highly of many other non-Roman Catholic organizations. They are wonderful people and are highly dedicated in wonderful spiritual work. One difference between most of them and the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit is that many others model their ministry on the traditional Roman Catholic model of parishes. We do not. We are very secular … but then, so is God. The infusion of God into the material world is complete.


I should explain here that the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit does not view itself as an “independent Catholic Church.” In fact, we think that a contradiction in terms: you cannot be “Catholic” and “independent” at the same time. We are a part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church – just not Roman, Coptic, etc. We are generically Catholic, plain vanilla / no particular flavor. 


We also have the same dogmas, creeds and doctrines as the first three centuries of the Church: none. We prefer the model of the Primitive Church (i.e., if you like the message of Jesus and want to be like him, you were a follower of The Way, and you were recognized as a Christian because you loved one another) rather than the model of the current Roman Catholic Church (i.e., a litmus test of “orthodox” beliefs, a stranglehold on religious practices, and a lock-step obedience to all from “above” in the “hierarchy”).


--------------


Question:  How would you respond to the arguments of Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, a noted feminist theologian, who insists that ordination is “part of the problem,” in that it is inherently hierarchical and forms the basis for clericalism?


Answer: I would largely agree with her. “Ordination” is clearly not from Jesus … no need for me to replay all those historical reasons why it is not. However, it is both something the church has been using for a very long time to designate its servant roles (at least what should be “servant roles”), so there is some value to it … even if it is not a sine qua non. 


And it is also one way to create at least the minimum structure that any organization needs to survive. I would argue that the structure must be very minimal – otherwise it creates clericalism, authoritarianism, hierarchical levels of “importance,” patriarchy (or, perhaps one day, matriarchy), and other senseless non-Christian forms of repression. But at least a minimal structure is needed or EVERYTHING gets diluted. 


In our diocese we have apostolic succession, employed in such a way that 

  1. Those who find it important can get that issue out of the way, 
  2. Those that find it irrelevant will not find us using it as a club, 
  3. We have a way of acknowledging various Christian roles, and 
  4. It is a “way” that has a historical value.


----------------------------


Question: Could you tell me a bit more about it and how you came to be ordained, both as a priest and as a bishop?


Answer: I spent 9 years in the seminaries of the Missionaries of the Most Precious Blood, but was not ordained to the priesthood as a Roman Catholic. I left prior to ordination and later married. I now have five grown children and six grandchildren – and, of course (to make all that happen) a great wife, Patty, a nurse who heads the nursing section of the Interventional Radiology Department at our local hospital. I variously abandoned organized religion, then missed it and returned, then got fed up again and repeated the cycle. 


When involved, I participated in parish ministries, for example, as lector or going to our parish’s Central American missions. I also continued to read new theology books coming out and went to spiritual lectures … never lost the thrill of the message of Jesus. About twelve years ago, I gradually felt the call to priesthood again, and was eventually ordained a priest in the Free Catholic Church by Bishop Tom Clary. 


I was very active in the FCC, but eventually felt constrained to leave it because it was not encouraging the ministry I felt I was being led to. On March 2, 2002 I was ordained a bishop by Bishop Ken Maley, a wonderful and deeply spiritual person who has many dioceses throughout the American southwest and South America, with hundreds of priests. I then began the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit, with its own personality. 


The Roman Catholic portion of the Catholic Church does not have the right to validate other portions of the Catholic Church, though they are the largest and claim this right. However, those RC bishops who have studied our Apostolic Succession, have all recognized that we are validly sacramental. 


They also claim we are “illicit” because we do not follow Roman Canon Law – though that is exactly the purpose of WHY we are not Roman. As to the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit, we are in communion with all rites of Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism. How they feel about us is up to them, and does not worry us.


--------------


Question: I note on your website that you do wear clerical garb, including a bishop’s hat etc., at least on some occasions. Fiorenza and others do argue that clerical garb reinforces patriarchal and hierarchical assumptions and dualistic relations between clergy and laity. How would you respond to those arguments? (I note that your website site says your priests wear clerical garb only occasionally.)


Answer: We have no requirement for clerical garb, generally finding it a barrier, something that sets the wearer apart (not a good thing), and often conveys at least a little bit of an idea that the wearer is trying to maintain a “pedestal” position from times-past. We suggest our deacons, priests and bishops wear Roman collars and vestments as little as possible. Some of our priests find it more useful than I do and wear it more often than the rest of us, for the generally-given reasons: people will come right up to them and talk or ask questions or seek advice. 


Everyone is free to do whatever he or she wishes in this regard. We recognize the clerical garb as cultural signs of comfort for some and abrasive turn-offs for others. They are purely “tools,” and are certainly not essentials. 


I myself wear a bishop’s collar and chain/cross at protests, where a random photograph might be published in the media and somebody would see it and think, “Look, a bishop supports this idea” (never guessing that it is a plain vanilla bishop, and not a “Roman” bishop). I also wear the bishop’s street outfit to some ordinations. I also usually wear vestments for ordinations, and there is a “comfort level” in that, and a sense for the participants that they are engaging in an act that has historical reach. Sometimes, I wear vestments for Mass. However, sometimes, I do not wear anything more than a stole for ordinations or Eucharists, because the participants (including me at some times) feel more in touch with the reality of what is going on that way. In all my weddings, I always give the couple getting married the option of my wearing an alb and a stole, a black suit/white shirt/tie, or the black suit/white shirt/tie plus stole. Surprisingly, the choices generally break down to 80% alb and stole, 10% each other choice. And this is from Catholics and non-Catholics alike.


----------------


Question: What is the future of the Catholic Church?


Answer: Article posted here:


What is the Future of the Catholic Church?
by Bishop James H. Burch


(this essay won the CORPUS essay writing contest in 2005)


The Incredible Shrinking Church. In the third world regions of Latin America and Africa, where poverty creates connections between those in need and those who help, the church has been the champion of the poor. Here the ranks of the traditional church will continue to swell. But church membership increases will take place only while those regions and people are educationally and economically disadvantaged. 


The ultimate process of the struggle for human justice is itself the institutional church’s undoing. The uncontested thrust of history is that as people become more educated and more affluent, they are concomitantly more put off by the church’s authoritarian dogmatism and unbending rules of behavior. The new middle class floods out the back door as fast as new poor recruits flood in the front. 


In America, only between 16% and 20% of the population is in church on any given Sunday, and all across Europe the numbers are in the single digits. Clearly the model of church that we have used for centuries, while still working for a sliver of the population, is not the spiritual format of the future for current and future developed nations.


“Members” of the “Church” The divisions in Christianity are not only a scandal, they are a misrepresentation of reality. If an individual is baptized into one Christian denomination and then joins another, that individual is not re-baptized. This fundamental understanding of ONE baptism into Christ clearly indicates that there is only ONE Body of Christ, and thus only ONE church. Denominational differences – played out as essential – are really only housekeeping, relative ecclesiastical whims du-jour. The essentials of Christianity – the topics mentioned over and over again in the gospels – are relatively few, but vastly important.


And so it will inevitably come to pass that all Christians will one day be recognized as members of the one Church of Jesus. This thrust is the almost-visible movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst. Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics and most other denominations will eventually be considered one – welcome under the large roof of the “new” Church, equal brothers and sisters in Christ. 


The command-and-control role of the pope will necessarily diminish, but the papal role of recognizable sign of unity will probably increase. This role will, by practical force of history, return to an early-centuries’ one of Unifier, Pontiff (“pons” and “factare” – Latin for “bridge builder”), the one who takes no sides but brings all together in loving acceptance.


The Institutional and Communal Life of the Church. What we have presumed for most of the life of the Church, but what was more culturally-related rather spiritually-required – that Church equals “ecclesiastical community” and scheduled-event liturgies – will change. The “Church” will ultimately become more what Jesus was initiating: a reminder of God’s pervasive presence in everything. 


For the few, Sunday morning services at a local parish will continue to be a spiritual home. For the many, however, their sense of personal spirituality will lead them to integrate their spirituality into the “communities” or organizations to which they already belong, such as the PTA, VFW, Lions’ Clubs, neighborhood gym, etc. This is in keeping with the dominant message of Jesus, that the Kingdom of God is the all-pervasive and life-giving presence of God in everything and everybody now, at hand and within. 


More home churches will flourish, although these also will only be a niche for a relatively small percentage of Christianity. The church will adapt – as the Episcopal Church has done – to ordaining average men and women to be priests for specific local groups only, in addition to its ordination of men and women to be pastoral leaders within the larger church community. The “local” priests will need less theological education, and arise from within the group itself and be ordained for the group itself. Priests of the future will be married or single, straight or gay, divorced or not. Leadership positions will become more democratically selected; popular voting will replace institutional designation. 


The institutional portion of the future church will concentrate on ways to get the essential spiritual message of Jesus out to the general public, whether that be by advertising, encouragement of spiritually-based entertainment, education, speech bureaus, the increase in religious commentators on news shows, etc. 


The institutional church will also figure out ways to train and sustain Christians from all walks of life to be “unofficial chaplains” to the secular organizations to which they belong, subtly and with encouragement, not with condemnation and vilification. These will be people who will know how to acknowledge and celebrate what Jesus taught us: the presence of God in All That Is.


The Church’s Body of Faith. The “Church” will ever so gradually return to its first centuries’ model: not defined by doctrinal purity or adhesion, or reigned-in by dogma, but rather infused with the lifestyle of Jesus, consciously tapped into the flow of Divinity within the universe.


As the church comes to embrace the world – God’s sustaining expression – and as it gains the benefit of the half of humanity it has shunned for most of its existence – women – it will gradually understand that frozen-in-time dogmas, doctrines and creeds are neither requirements to living life as Jesus recommended, nor benefits to believers. Thomas Aquinas, for example, in explaining the gifts of the Last Supper, talked of transubstantiation – which basically means nothing to people of our contemporary world – and he had no inkling of molecular structure. Dogmas, doctrines and creeds will ultimately come to be seen more as the cherished Body of Faith lived over the centuries, than as required perspectives on the Christian life.


The Church in the World. The Church will never include all the people of the world. That is because the “Church” is NOT the singular vehicle for “salvation” of the world; it is the wake-up call for the beauty of God’s magnificent presence … just as Jesus was. Other cultural spiritualities – themselves the blossoming of God-Within and arising from the experiences of regional histories and life-views – will also refine and flourish. 


The Church will come to see its role as not “converting” vast cultures to the “belief” in Jesus, but rather to exert a wholesome and persuasive influence on others’ adapting and adopting the Good News that Jesus brought for all people: the living and loving presence of God within all, and the consequences of that reality.


All this will come about simply because it is the inevitable flow of history, ingrained as it is with the Holy Spirit.

Help CDOS in our Goals

Members are requested to contribute, and we would be most grateful if you could also assist in our efforts. We never question if you cannot, and are grateful for whatever you donate: a lot, a little, or nothing. Your support and contributions, if given, will enable us to meet support our work and of making this opportunity known to those who seek it. Thank you!

Pay with PayPal or a debit/credit card